Rights and responsibilities

UNION MEMBER RIGHTS

Rights – Union members have:

Equal rights to participate in union activities;
Freedom of speech and assembly;
Voice in setting rates of dues, fees, and assessments;
Protection of the right to sue; and
Safeguards against improper discipline.

Copies of Collective Bargaining Agreements – Union members and nonunion employees have the right to receive or inspect copies of collective bargaining agreements.

Reports – Unions are required to file an initial information report (Form LM-1), copies of constitutions and bylaws, and an annual financial report (Form LM-2/3/4) with OLMS. Unions must make the reports available to members and permit members to examine supporting records for just cause. The reports are public information and copies are available from the OLMS Internet Public Disclosure Room.

Officer Elections – Union members have the right to:

Nominate candidates for office;
Run for office;
Cast a secret ballot; and
Protest the conduct of an election.

Officer Removal – Local union members have the right to an adequate procedure for the removal of an elected officer guilty of serious misconduct.

Trusteeships – Unions may only be placed in trusteeship by a parent body for the reasons specified in the LMRDA.</`>

Prohibition Against Certain Discipline – A union or any of its officials may not fine, expel, or otherwise discipline a member for exercising any LMRDA right.

Prohibition Against Violence – No one may use or threaten to use force or violence to interfere with a union member in the exercise of LMRDA rights.
UNION OFFICER RESPONSIBILITIES

Financial Safeguards – Union officers have a duty to manage the funds and property of the union solely for the benefit of the union and its members in accordance with the union’s constitution and bylaws. Union officers or employees who embezzle or steal union funds or other assets commit a Federal crime punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.

Bonding – Union officers or employees who handle union funds or property must be bonded to provide protection against losses if their union has property and annual financial receipts which exceed $5,000.

Labor Organization Reports – Union officers must:

file an initial information report (Form LM-1) and annual financial reports (Forms LM-2/3/4) with OLMS; and
retain the records necessary to verify the reports for at least five years.

Officer Reports – Union officers and employees must file reports concerning any loans and benefits received from, or certain financial interests in, employers whose employees their unions represent and businesses that deal with their unions.

Officer Elections – Unions must:

hold elections of officers of local unions by secret ballot at least every three years;
conduct regular elections in accordance with their constitution and bylaws and preserve all records for one year;
mail a notice of election to every member at least 15 days prior to the election;
comply with a candidate’s request to distribute campaign material;
not use union funds or resources to promote any candidate (nor may employer funds or resources be used);
permit candidates to have election observers; and
allow candidates to inspect the union’s membership list once within 30 days prior to the election.

Restrictions on Holding Office – A person convicted of certain crimes may not serve as a union officer, employee, or other representative of a union for up to 13 years.

Loans – A union may not have outstanding loans to any one officer or employee that in total exceed $2,000 at any time.

Fines – A union may not pay the fine of any officer or employee convicted of any willful violation of the LMRDA.

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Your Role as a Union Member

The most important thing to know about your union is that YOU are the union. A union is only as strong, effective and powerful as the members who participate in its operation and activities.

You can best exercise that power by being informed, involved and active in your union.

Every member can take a number of simple steps to make your union a more powerful and effective vehicle for advancing your interests and the interests of your colleagues. These steps include:

Read your contract and keep it handy – Your contract delineates your rights and benefits at work and represents the focus of your union’s activity.
Submit ideas for contract proposals – When contracts come up for renegotiation members have the opportunity to submit proposals to be considered for inclusion in the negotiation. This is your opportunity to propose changes or new ideas to improve your workplace.
Go to your union leadership if you have a question – If you are unclear about what your contract says, or what your union is doing to address an issue, go to one of your elected leaders and ask them. The names of your leaders are available to you
Attend meetings – If you can not make a meeting, send a surrogate from your floor who you trust to express your views and help you stay informed.
Read newsletters, E-Mails, etc. – Your negotiating committee has stepped up efforts through the production of our newsletter, contract updates and email blasts to keep members informed of ongoing issues. Review this material so you know what is going on.
Participate in and vote in the election of leaders of your unit – Your bargaining unit has by-laws that dictate a process for holding elections of its leadership and negotiating team. If you have the time, run for election. If you don’t have time, learn about who is running. If you know of a member who shares your views and is a strong leader, encourage them to run for election. Make sure you vote.
Participate in the activities of the bargaining unit –As your union does its work on your behalf, it will engage in a number of activities, including leafleting, member surveys, petition drives, picketing and, if needed, strike votes and even strikes. The success of all of these activities depends on broad participation by the membership. If your union is engaged in an activity, participate. Remember the Union is you.
Be politically informed and involved. ————————————————————————————————————————–The Right to Union Representation and Due Process

One of the strongest benefits of belonging to a union is the legal right to “just cause” and “due process” in cases where management seeks to discipline a nurse.

Among your rights is the right to union representation during investigatory interviews. An investigatory interview occurs when a supervisor or manager questions an employee to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his or her conduct.

These rights are known as “Weingarten rights.” These rights must be invoked by you and may be used only during investigatory interviews when you are questioned by a supervisor to obtain information which then could be used as a basis for discipline. You do not have Weingarten rights to union representation if a supervisor is meeting to discuss a clinical issue or other “direction of work” matters, as long as potential discipline is not involved.

Any time management asks to meet with you, you should ask the nature of the meeting and whether it is possible that you might be disciplined as a result of the meeting. You have the right to be told the purpose of the meeting prior to questions from management and the specific nature of the charge(s) being investigated.

A statement that summarizes “Weingarten Rights” is:

“If this discussion/interview could in any way lead to me being disciplined or terminated, I respectfully request that my union representative be present at the meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion.”

Your union representative has the right to be an active participant in the meeting and has the right to meet with you prior to the start of the meeting.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to be aware of these rights and to request them. Management is not required to inform you of these rights.

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Your Role as a Steward: The Basics

» Return to The Stewards Manual index page

» Your Role As Steward

» Things You Need to Have

» Your Protections As a Steward

» Fairness: A Big Responsibility

» Your Duties As Steward

» Welcoming New Workers

Your Role as Steward

As an SEIU steward, your job involves much, much more than handling grievances.

Grievances are important. They are often the most visible and dramatic aspect of the union’s presence. Sometimes they’ll take up most of your time.

But grievances should never be confused with your chief responsibility as a steward: to build a united, organized, and involved membership in your workplace.

Without this involvement and solidarity, no union in the world can protect and serve its members.

As a leader in the workplace, you’ll have your hands full. That’s because SEIU stewards are …

Organizers. This is the big one. It doesn’t just mean signing up new members, although it means that too. It means SEIU stewards are responsible for organizing the whole workplace to deal with problems as a united group. Which is, when you think about it, what labor unions are all about.

Problem solvers. You’re the person workers turn to with their problems. It might be a work-site hazard. Maybe someone’s been fired, or perhaps layoffs are threatened. It might be just a new employee with a question. Perhaps you can solve the problem with a friendly word, or maybe you’ll organize a worksite action or file a grievance. Problems don’t go with your territory. They are your territory.

Educators and communicators. The contract. The health insurance plan. What’s a “ULP”? How can I do this? Why did they do that? It’s a complicated world, and your members are counting on you to help them make sense of it. Equally important, your union officers are counting on you to help them keep in touch with your co-workers. You work with them every day. They don’t.

Worksite leaders. You’re the one who keeps it moving. You’re the one who’s not afraid to speak up to management. You make unity happen, and you never let anyone forget there’s a union at your worksite. (Nobody said this job is easy.)

The sections that follow will explain some of your different jobs in more detail. (Pages with the symbol « provide handy checklists of things stewards need to know, have, and do.)

For now, it’s enough that you understand and accept your wide responsibility in the workplace, and remember that your primary duties are to organize and to solve problems. (You’ll see later how those two duties go hand in hand.)

Things You Need to Have

You’ll need to have a lot of information close at hand, both at work and at home. (Some stewards carry a notebook or a planner back and forth.)

You and your chief steward or union representative should check out your materials to make sure you have everything you need. Here are some possibilities:

A list of the workers you serve as steward, including name, address, telephone number, email address, job title, and shift schedule.
A seniority list of your workers (if applicable).
The contract and any side letters.
Local union constitution and bylaws.
Management’s personnel manual, if there is one (or any other employer policies in printed form).
Civil service rules (if applicable).
An organization chart of managers and supervisors.
Organizing materials for new members, including authorization cards, copies of the contract, your union’s Web site and email address, and your union’ s constitution and bylaws.
Grievance investigation forms.
COPE (political action) materials.
You probably know the different occupations in your unit, but if not, you’ll need some job descriptions.

Of course, your local union staff rep and legal counsel will also have other valuable information including:

Federal and state health and safety regulations.
Federal and state labor laws and court decisions.
Records of past investigations, grievances, and arbitrations.
Lists of references, resources, and other helpful materials available from the International union.
Links to use on the Web, such as SEIU.org for the latest updates across the country.
Links to educational resources

Your Protections as a Steward

When you’re dealing with management on union business, you deal with the employer as an equal.

You can imagine how happy that makes them. That’s why the National Labor Relations Act and state labor boards specifically protect you (and other union leaders) from punishment or discrimination by management because of your union activity. It’s illegal for an employer to:

Deny you promotions or pay opportunities.
Isolate you from other workers.
Saddle you with extra work or unusually tough assignments.
Deny you overtime opportunities.
Enforce work rules unfairly against you or harass you with extra supervision.

Your contract may also spell out your rights, and perhaps you’re covered by state and local ordinances if you’re a government worker.

If your employer tries to discriminate against you in this way, it’s a violation of federal law.

Fairness: A Big Responsibility

This is really important.

Labor unions are required by law to represent all workers in the unit fairly and completely. This includes non-members as well as your union members. It’s legally known as the duty of fair representation or DFR.

Of course, you don’t need to be told that you must represent all workers fairly regardless of their race, religion, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

You may find that you have to represent workers who oppose the union, as well as those who are unpopular, difficult to work with, or who create discord in the union or the workplace.

No matter. Fair is fair. This doesn’t mean the union can’t lose a grievance or make a mistake. It does mean that every action you take must be free from bias or the appearance of bias:

Your investigations of every problem or incident must be fair and complete.
Each worker must be kept informed about each step you take on their behalf.
Never, never lose a grievance because a time limit ran out.
Cases must be based on facts, not personalities.

That’s why it’s so important to keep records of your activities as a steward including phone calls, interviews, letters, contacts, and decisions. Without documentation, it’s far more difficult for your union to defend a DFR case if one should occur.

Your Duties as a Steward

No one can list all the different duties you’ll be asked to perform. What follows are some of the more important things SEIU stewards do.

Not all stewards do all things. Some unions elect negotiators and stewards separately. Some ask staff reps to handle the final steps of grievances. You’ll find these things out as you go along.

You don’t have to learn your duties all at once. And you’ll have more experienced stewards and staff reps to help you get started.

Get to know all the workers in your unit.
Greet new members and help them get oriented.
Convince workers to join the union.
Convince workers to join the union. (This is not a misprint.)
Sign up retiring members.
Recruit and lead volunteers.
Play a leading role in unit meetings. Keep the members informed.  Help out with balloting, elections, and reports.
Get committees going and attend committee meetings, guiding them when need be (and when possible).
Keep updated phone, addresses and email lists of your members.
Learn all the problems in the workplace.
Investigate grievances.
Interview members.
Write and file grievances.
Negotiate with management. This can range from informal talks with supervisors to arbitration hearings, formal contract bargaining, and labor/management committee assignments.
Maintain files and records. (We know it’s boring, but it’s really important.)
Keep updated address, phone, and email information on your members.
Work on contract campaigns.
Organize rallies, vigils, work actions, petitions, parades, demonstrations, and other activities. Big parades and demonstrations require marshals, and you’ll need to keep them briefed. (Wear comfortable shoes. Trust us on this one.)
Work on newsletters, leaflets, press releases, picket signs, buttons, stickers, bulletin board displays, whatever.
Attend steward training classes.
Work on COPE (Committee On Political Education), legislative, and get-out-the-vote activities where permissible. This may involve fund-raising, lobbying, phone banks, polling place duties, and a lot of other things, especially around election time.
Do a lot of different things with your union’ s coalition partners in the community.
Inspect the worksite for health and safety problems. Know where the OSHA 2000 Log is posted. File federal and state OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) violation reports and accompany inspectors on site visits.
You don’t have to do this all yourself. Don’t be shy about asking individual members to help you out. It’s one way to get them involved.

Welcoming New Workers

Remember your first day on the job? Not exactly a day at the beach.

That’s why one of your foremost tasks is to welcome new workers. You do this whether your shop is open or union, public or private.

Some local unions have created a  welcome packet for this purpose. (If yours has one, good. But don’t use it as a substitute for getting to know the new worker.)

If you don’t have a packet, then you’ll be winging it. (The next few sections contain some capsule info about dues, payments and union membership usually the first things you’ll be asked about–as well as a few SEIU facts to help you out.)

If yours is a union or agency shop (that means new workers must join the union or pay a fee), then the new worker may be hostile to the union. This doesn’t let you off the hook. It just means you’ll have to grit your teeth and put forth an extra effort to be friendly and helpful.

Here’s a checklist of some things you might want to include in your conversation:

Get to know each other. Ask where they worked before, where they live now, do they have a family? Hobbies? Sports? Start off by listening.
Offer information: where the vending machines are (and what not to buy), where to go for happy hour, what the boss is like, who runs the football pool, how you get in on ride-sharing.
Give the new worker a welcome packet if you have one. If not, be sure they receive a copy of the contract and explain its important provisions to them.
Explain some of the main benefits provided by the union contract, not the benevolence of the employer: wages, health care, holidays, a voice on the job.
During the conversation, remember that you want the employee to begin identifying with the union. Whenever the worker has a problem, you are the person to see, not the supervisor. The union is the members, the people right there all around you, not some unknown outsiders. If you get these two ideas across, you’ve done your job.
If your union is doing its job, there’ll be a meeting coming up you’ll want to invite the new worker to. In fact, why not take them with you? They’ll feel more at ease with someone they know. (Remember your first one?)
Make sure the worker has a wallet card with your name and phone number, and encourage them to call if they have any problems.

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A union is a group of employees who work together in order to secure safe working conditions, proper pay and benefits and fair employment practices. Organizing a union is a protected right under federal and state law. Once the union is organized, it is only as effective as its members are in fulfilling their basic obligations.

Contract

Union members are expected to adhere to the union contract, which is also called a collective bargaining agreement, as it is binding on all union members. The contract outlines the rights of union members as well as the responsibilities of each member. Union members must read and understand the entire contract; if they have questions about any provisions, they should consult with the union’s leadership to clarify the contract’s contents.
Information

Union members must also stay informed on events affecting the union. This can range from staying in tune with public policy changes on the federal, state and local level affecting the member’s industry and livelihood, to reading ongoing communication (e.g., emails and newsletters) from the union’s leadership regarding developments occurring on a micro level. Union members also need to attend the union’s meetings and provide input or expertise when applicable.
Activities

Perhaps the most important facet of a union member’s responsibilities is to participate in activities organized by the union. Whether the union calls for distributing of information, collecting signatures, voting, picketing or striking, it is important for union members to participate because the union’s bargaining power is strengthened only to the extent that there is a high member turnout. The high number of union members involved in an activity is what usually forces an employer to pay attention to and meet or compromise with the union to prevent any work stoppages.
Dues

In general, union members must pay union dues. These dues are typically deducted from a union member’s paycheck (although payment procedures vary from union to union) and are used to fund the union’s ongoing activities. Union dues are also frequently used to support political campaigns. State legislators often introduce legislation aimed at abolishing mandatory union dues, arguing that they force employees to support causes that may be at odds with their personal beliefs.
Tip

If you feel your rights as a union member have been violated under the union contract, consult with your union’s leadership or a labor attorney. The union contract explains how to file an official grievance and may be able to help you properly file it.

Your Role as a Union Member

The most important thing to know about your union is that YOU are the union. A union is only as strong, effective and powerful as the members who participate in its operation and activities.
Your Role as a Union Member

“If this discussion/interview could in any way lead to me being disciplined or terminated, I respectfully request that my union representative be present at the meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion.”

Your union representative has the right to be an active participant in the meeting and has the right to meet with you prior to the start of the meeting.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to be aware of these rights and to request them. Management is not required to inform you of these rights.

“If this discussion/interview could in any way lead to me being disciplined or terminated, I respectfully request that my union representative be present at the meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion.”

Your union representative has the right to be an active participant in the meeting and has the right to meet with you prior to the start of the meeting.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to be aware of these rights and to request them. Management is not required to inform you of these rights.